So we all know, or should know, by now that Empire is our own little Black telenovela that comes on every Wednesday night. Because of this, we let the overly dramatic and loosely written scenes go over our heads and still become enthralled in the music and storyline of the show. For me, I see it as a form of self care. Something to watch that takes me away from the everyday headache of society. Everyone needs that mental release from the world and this is my little guilty pleasure. With that being said, Empire has a looooooooooottttttt of explaining to do with the recent “support” or acknowledgment of the “Black Lives Matter” movement.
With the season opener, there is a huge concert with the hashtag #FreeLucious. This was strike one for me. Unless you have been under a rock, or stuck in some type of privilege and refuse to acknowledge the real issues of society, Black Lives Matter has been a movement that has been going on for some time now. It began over the countless killings of young black men at the hands of white cops. What started as hashtags turned into protests and rallys for these innocent bodies. Let me say that again, INNOCENT BODIES!! Empire…what? How are you going to have a protest reminiscent of the movement, but it is for a man who was clearly guilty??? This already shows the mockery because now it makes it seem like the work that people are doing to fight against innocent people being killed at random is a joke and they are really protesting against nothing. Oh wait…and let’s not forget Cookie coming out in a gorilla suit. (I don’t think there is an explanation needed for why that was wrong in so many ways. But hey, Fox is gonna Fox, right?)
Now, when I finished watching that episode I will say that I had to shake it off. They obviously were trying just a little hard and they did use their platform to bring some type of awareness. Also Jussie Smollett,(Jamal Lyon), is very active in the “Black Lives Matter” movement so they got a little bit of a pass. I needed this show to not turn into THAT show. I wanted to support my Black actors and actresses, but I needed them to stay aware of what they were putting out there. So, I’m watching last night and everything is going smooth. It’s the normal, all over the place, Lusious hates Andre because of his mental issues and the mental issues his mother has, Jamal just wants someone to love him so he can write his music, Cookie is being loud and crazy, we are great! Credits roll and I am able to keep Empire on my watchlist. And then it happens. They show scenes from the next episode and Cookie is put in the backseat of a car. “If I die in police custody, I did not commit suicide.”
“Nah…that didn’t just happen did it?” I asked invisible bae, who was just as dumbfounded as I was. Did they really just use a Sandra Bland reference…on this show…as a means to be funny? Now, once again for those privileged rock dwellers, Sandra Bland was a Black young lady who was wrongfully taken into police custody and found dead in her cell a few days later. Many people protested this event because they did not believe that it was a suicide and suspected foul play. From the dash cam of the police car, Bland was very adamant about fighting her case in court and did not seem at all like she was ready to go down without a fight. The phrase, “If I die in police custody, I did not commit suicide,” was something that was started after the death of Sandra Bland and a way to show a united stance with her and her family. This is something that has me very conflicted. There are several people who have been fighting hard…HARD…for our rights and for the world to see what is really happening when it come to police brutality against people of color. To throw it randomly in a scene with no real care, is just foolish. This is where I begin to lean more towards the mockery aspect with Empire. This is not like the time when Shonda did her “Mike Brown-esque” episode on Scandal. Shonda did an entire episode on the matter and in no way made fun of the movement. Scandal is not a comedic show and hence the appropriate platform for it. Empire is doing this all wrong. Everything that comes out of Cookie’s mouth is pretty much a joke, we love her for it, but still.
If you want to bring awareness, there are ways to do so without throwing jabs and random twitter sayings and hashtags around in every scene. Wear a “Black Lives Matter” shirt or throw a benefit concert for families affected by the police brutality, but don’t just give references out of the blue and say you are “bringing awareness.” No…you’re not. You are doing the complete opposite. You are turning this into a minstrel show and discrediting those who are out there every day fighting. Those who have actually been arrested for simply protesting, those who have been shot with rubber bullets, those who have been attacked with tear gas. You are dehumanizing people involved in the movement and making it look like they are all just foolish characters, fighting for something that isn’t a real cause. Fox…I mean I guess we should have expected this, but at what moment do we start holding our celebs accountable? You can’t tell me they read that and didn’t feel a certain way. And, honestly, if they did read it and thought it was okay…that’s a problem in itself. The same problem that we always have when it comes to our people on TV. I don’t want to see a shuck and jive show with pointless references. I want to see real acting. The show doesn’t have to say a thing about the movement at all if it cannot do it properly. Don’t think that just because you have a show full of Black people, you have to throw it in somehow, because you are doing more damage then you realize. All in all, Empire needs to get it together…QUICK…before next Wednesday it’s going to be a collective, “same phone…who dis?” from their biggest audience.
Photo credits: kontrolmag.com, sheknows.com, giphy.com